The city approved a leading pot firm’s proposal to move a medical dispensary to a prime location just steps from Wrigley Field — but it’s unclear whether recreational weed would ever be sold there.
MedMar Lakeview, one of five Illinois dispensaries owned by River North-based Cresco Labs, was given approval late last week from the Zoning Board of Appeals to move to 3524 N. Clark St., which currently houses John Barleycorn restaurant, said Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development.
The new site is much larger than the clinic’s current location, at 3812 N. Clark.
The ruling to grant special use zoning for the new location, approved in a 3-2 vote, comes with the condition that Cresco must return to the zoning board for approval to sell recreational marijuana there, Strazzabosco said.
He said that falls in line with the ordinance Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed last week. Under the mayor’s proposal, MedMar Lakeview and the city’s 10 other existing dispensaries could start selling both medical and recreational marijuana at their current locations without going through the zoning process, but new locations need to go to the zoning board.
Cresco spokesman Jason Erkes acknowledged that the city’s rules haven’t yet been finalized but said the firm “will adhere to whatever is required from all medical operators to start serving recreational cannabis consumers in Chicago.”
However, Cresco’s major hurdle comes in the form of a directive put forth earlier this summer by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation that prevents existing dispensaries from adding recreational marijuana sales if they move to a new location.
On Tuesday, Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell said the Pritzker administration is open to discussing the issue with members of the industry, which opposes it, but reaffirmed the governor’s stance.
“You’ve already got operators who are going to get a really significant economic advantage by being the first people in the door in this industry by being able to get not just a first license but also in many cases a second license — to be the first people selling marijuana and probably to have a monopoly on the market for no less than a year,” Mitchell said. He noted that allowing those firms to move into prime retail locations would give them a “further advantage.”
If the state’s directive stands, MedMar could stay in its existing location and still obtain a dual-use license.
But with Lightfoot moving last week to ban pot sales in the Central Business District, the new location’s close proximity to Wrigley Field and its tourist-friendly surroundings could make it one of the state’s hottest dispensaries — if the shop is able to sell weed to all adults over 21.
As of last June, the dispensary on Clark had 577 registered medical cannabis patients, according to the most recent figures released by the Illinois Department of Public Health. That patient count was nevertheless trumped by the 1,405 patients tallied by Dispensary 33 in Uptown, which is located in the same medical cannabis district.
Regardless of location, the store will soon fall under Cresco’s new Sunnyside dispensary label.